Mayo Clinic Mission and Values
To inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.
The needs of the patient come first. (from mayoclinic.org)
I just returned from my first “Adventures at Mayo.” I didn’t know what to expect other than what I had heard from others and read on the internet. How different can one medical system be? Why is it difficult to get in? What makes this campus in Rochester, MN so special? And, why did I get in so quickly once the right department became involved?
A five hour drive from Chicagoland made more sense than trying to get on a plane. By the time you factored in traffic, check-in time, travel time, etc…it just wasn’t worth the hassle. So, off I went. Excited. Hopeful. Nervous. A little detour here. I traveled across a good bit of the western side of Wisconsin. I was amazed at some of the beautiful country Wisconsin has to offer. Amazing rock formations, hills, small mountains that reminded me of Northwest Arkansas…just beautiful. Having recently returned from the Eastern side of Wisconsin, I was pleasantly surprised. Now if someone can explain to me Wis-Dells and all the waterparks! OK, back to the topic. So, I traveled and arrived the afternoon before day one of Mayo. I found myself a tad bored, so after dinner a quick trip to Target was in order to help pass time. I found myself in the book section and stumbled upon the “Grown Up Coloring Book” that has been around. I, and my impulse shopping nerve, grabbed the book and proceeded to gather some colored pencils. This ended up being my night. I believe I missed my hobby calling. Coloring. I found it to be oddly relaxing. I also found myself wishing I had about 100 additional colors to choose from. I’m guessing I might be upgrading my color collection soon.
Soon, the night was over and it was time to head over to the Mayo Clinic for check-in. Park. Check. Try not to hit a pedestrian as you look at everything around you. Check. Coffee. Check. Walk in the front door. Check. Instantly realize this is something special. Something different. Double Check. I proceeded to the area where I was told to check-in and get my picture made. (Disclaimer: I have been to many clinics. Many hospitals. It takes a lot to make me go, wow.) Just in the lobby area, I went wow. I cannot explain it. You did not see patients walking around covered with stress. You didn’t see a sea of white doctor coats. You sensed a peace. An assurance. Next, over to the elevators for my first appointment of the day. A beeper to call me for my appointment time? Yeah! The clinic’s are well organized, well ran and very patient focused. My beeper goes off. I first meet with the Otolaryngologist’s NP. I was impressed with her knowledge, her compassion, her ability to ask the right questions in order to get a full picture. I was even more impressed at how she was able to relax me during the dreaded scope. Instead of telling me how I shouldn’t be, she worked with how I was and used whatever she had to use to help me relax. Music, calm tones, quiet room….I mattered. Next, in walks the Doctor. (He had a student with him too.) Seeing doctors all in suits is new to me. You can’t tell which ones are students and which ones are seasoned at their craft. The playing field isn’t about your coat….it’s about the patient. I never really realized until this week how intimidating those white coats are. They create a line in the sand in the relationship. Trust in doctors is not my strong-suit. I will analyze a doctor up and down and back again. I suppose this is an unavoidable part of living with a chronic illness and having poor result/outcomes that in hindsight were because I trusted too blindly. So, imagine my surprise, when within ten minutes, I had a full confidence in this physician. I think God knows this character trait in me and knows that I needed that instant “click.” More on that later. After going over what he saw and what he suggests, we agreed that more needed to be known on my anatomy that couldn’t be visualized by scope. CT. Scheduled. Coordinated with next appointment so that both CT scans would be done at the same time. Three months ago I heard a seasoned ENT here in Chicagoland say that my anatomy was the “worst he has ever seen.” I am thankful today for a meeting where my anatomy did not shock or scare or worry the doctor. That my virus history wasn’t new to him. I’m a fan. Within one hour of my appointment, his dictation was ready on my Mayo patient portal. Impressed.
I had about a two hour window between appointments on the first day, so lunch was in order. Right outside the clinic area is a beautiful area known as “Peace Plaza.” From the lobby I could see a restaurant called “Chesters”, so I decided it was fate for us to meet. (I am so thankful I can eat alone. It has served me well in my lifetime.) Seated. Cornbread with maple butter??? What!!!! Yes, I will take a slice of that. Slap your Momma good! (Don’t slap your Momma, but you get my idea here.) What to eat for my meal???? What to eat??? Salads. That sounds good…so I went with the Chester Chopped Salad. Seriously good stuff. In house roasted chicken, apples, fresh spring greens, eggs, homemade croutons, sweet corn and bacon….what is not to love on that list?? Time for pulmonary.
Back to the clinic I went and up eighteen floors….I seriously don’t like anything above about ten…but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. The second time of being called back earlier than my appointment time…seriously, I think that in itself is a five star rating! Pulmonary is not my favorite department. I can say that about every pulmonary department I have been to. I can’t explain it. It seems to be the department I struggle the most in with that all-important “click.” After a review of my history and a chat about ideas of where and what we need to do, I was rescheduled for a longer appointment on day two after more tests were available. Ok…here’s where I am going to give another shout. I was not charged for day one clinic in this department. Even though it was a good forty-five minutes, I was not charged. Doctor told the desk to make the second day my “official” appointment. A different way of doing medicine. I told ya. Day one at Mayo was coming to an end and this chick needed to just go and put her feet on the bed for a bit and process the day. Soon, hunger set in and the decision of where to eat began swirling around. Everyone kept telling me I had to try wall-eye…..slight issue….I only like two fish. Catfish cooked Mississippi style and Halibut. I decided I would at least consider it, so I thought hey…there’s a Canadian Honkers (Ok…I laughed…it’s just a hilarious word…Honkers.) right by me. I walked in, grabbed a table….menu. Began to realize this was just a Denny’s type establishment in disguise. No…Kim can’t do this. So I ever so politely excused myself and opted to go back to Chester’s where I had the most wonderful lunch earlier in the day. The homestyle turkey dinner and a delicious dessert of banana cream pie and this gal was full and ready to stick a fork in this day. I remember 9PM and I remember 9:45PM, but not anything in between those two times….so it was an early night.
Day two started early and included a bit of fasting in order to be ready to the contrast that would be needed for the tests. Anything that involves the need to start an IV line causes me to have near panic attacks. I suppose that’s just part of the journey when your veins are full of scar tissue and the idea of enduring multiple sticks to hopefully thread an IV are your norm. Normally, an injection of lidocaine at the IV site along with warm towels is the only way we “might” get a thread on the first try. The precious girls up in the IV room kept assuring me that Mayo was different…to trust them…they could do this without the numbing medication. So, my arms were wrapped in warm blankets, then it was time to find a vein. She quickly saw the vein she wanted and decided to spray a topical numbing medication on my skin just to help keep that area of skin remain relaxed (I believe it was honestly due to me being a baby in the IV room.) Deep breath….and it was IN! Zero discomfort. It was IN! I wanted to hug her. Now that I know what its supposed to be like, well, Mayo is different. Time for scans. So, honestly, how different can scans be from one institution to another? It’s a scan. Even that is different. Most was the same until it was time to inject the contrast. My arm placement was different, the way that they administered the contrast was different (No sensation of you just well….if you have had contrast you know what I am talking about here.). When finished, I was handed a bottle of water to start my four bottles by the end of the day flush. Different, yes indeed. Back to Pulmonary.
I wish I could pin point my issue with Pulmonary everywhere I go. Is it that I know too much about what works and doesn’t work that flags are always going up? Is it that I’ve already decided what route I want to take and haven’t found the one that says it without me bringing it up first? Is it just the nature of a pulmonologist and their personality? Is it just me and my over-thinking nature? Or is it that this isn’t the department I should be in first….that maybe the process is off? We went over the scans from the morning and decided that we were missing a piece of the puzzle in order for him to make a decision on where to go from here. So, I am to get that puzzle piece sent priority mail directly to his office. Then a meeting will occur where all the information will be sorted through. Looking for the smallest of change…a clue. And that was the end of this first Mayo Adventure.
Where we left things at Mayo. Otolaryngology has their scan results and has emailed me their plan. I just have to set the date for what they want to try. Pulmonary-we are on hold. I learned a few things that I didn’t know while there…some things I should have known for years…thankful that I know them now. It really is a different way of doing medicine. You can’t really explain it…you just have to be a part of it. The level of care from front desk to the top is greater than anything I have ever experienced. Watching patients and such sit at the grand piano in the lobby and play hymns and sing-along songs…watching women walk up and join in harmony…..while the sun shone brightly in through the beautiful windows…just a peace that you normally don’t feel in any clinic setting. I’m a fan.
It was time for the drive back to Chicagoland. It was a time to process the visit and logically go over the events of the past two days. Was my uncertaintity of the Pulmonary a personality issue, a flag, me over-thinking….what was it? I really don’t know much more in that area than I did last week….was it simply due to that missing puzzle piece? Then the phone rings and I let it go to voicemail. It was MD Anderson. About the time that the Mayo process started, I had made it past the gate-keepers of MD Anderson and they had requested my medical information. I was in. The appointment was mine. Instantly, I am wondering if this is God’s timing to my questions…or simply a distraction from where God had led me already. I sat on this voicemail until the next day. Praying over wisdom, discernment….so I returned the call. They see my medical file a little differently than Mayo. I sent out a SOS to a couple dear friends and made that phone call to my Sis. I prayed for just wisdom….take it..not take it…why are they starting me in a different department than anyone else? Remembering that MD, like Mayo, doesn’t just take appointments. It’s not like calling a local specialist. My file meets their area of expertise….Ugh…grown-up life..sometimes…just saying.
Long story short, I am taking the appointment in Houston. I could have gone in two weeks, but in fairness to the pulmonary folks at Mayo and my need to see their plan, I have opted to go early September. After that appointment, I plan to allow Mayo Otolaryngology to proceed with their plan. At MD Anderson, I am starting in thoracic oncology. I’m starting where I would be treated. Different approach. Different eyes on same file.
In all of this, I am dealing with a touch of anger. I am angry that everyone isn’t allowed the level of care I received at Mayo. That should be the standard for each of us…no matter where we are. I’m angry that doctors don’t refer patients when the doctor isn’t fully qualified. Learning something from a book while in medical school does not qualify you. I’m angry that any patient has to feel that they don’t have knowledge or power in their healthcare.
I’m also dealing with gratitude. I am so grateful that we have an insurance plan that allows me to seek the very best care I can find. I know many don’t have that option. That should change. It needs to change. Geography and income should not determine your medical outcome. My life is of no greater value than the person next to me….so I am thankful that I can go. I’m thankful for the ability to travel and the huge support team I have in my RRP family to help guide my way. People I have never met that I have cheered me on, supported me, provided vast amounts of information….I am thankful that I am not fearful of traveling alone or facing doctors and questioning their words. Grateful. I am thankful for friends and my family.
I am in awe of God who has clearly guided each step of this journey these past few months. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know He guides my steps and has gone before me.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
So, now we wait for the Mayo plan and prepare for Texas. I plan to eat Tex-Mex daily! Texas brings a chance to hang out with my aunt, my sister and hopefully some of my Texas friends. It’s almost surreal that where my RRP journey began…it’s going back. Life really is a circle…..and somehow we are all woven together within that circle.